Research Themes

Our research is clustered in six established research groups in the areas of:

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

The Fault Analysis Group (FAG) was founded in 1985 within the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Liverpool and relocated to Dublin in June 2000. The function of the FAG is to carry out basic scientific research on all aspects of faults and other types of fracture and to apply the results to practical problems, principally in the fields of hydrocarbon and minerals exploration and production. Results are disseminated in the form of published articles, reports and lectures and by incorporation into in-house and commercial software. FAG is currently staffed by 8 salaried researchers and 8 post-graduate students. Research projects are externally funded from public and industrial sources, with a very limited proportion of consultancy income.

The group places great emphasis on the collation and analysis of high quality data sets on a range of scales. We are heavily reliant on commercial data, mostly in the form of seismic, well and production data from the hydrocarbon industry, coal-mine and mineral deposit data, satellite imagery and a continuing programme of outcrop studies. We have more than 60 seismic surveys available for use in research projects. FAG facilities include a Landmark seismic interpretation workstation and software systems for 3-D mapping (RMS, ERMapper), fault analysis (FAPS/Traptester), reservoir modelling (TransGen, RMS), mineral deposit modelling (Vulcan) and flow modelling (ECLIPSE, MORE and 3DSL), in addition to a broad range of in-house analytical and modelling software systems.

For more information please see the Fault Analysis website.

The Geochronology, Petrology & Isotope Geochemistry Group carries out research in geochronology; geodynamic evolution of continental crust; igneous and metamorphic petrology; environmental geochemistry; climate change; mineralisation, sediment provenance and igneous petrogenic studies in crustal evolution.

The Geophysics Group works on a range of problems spanning volcano seismology, wave propagation in fractured media and the analysis of ocean generated microseismic noise. These thematic areas are underpinned by strong computational components and specifically designed field experiments using our mobile seismic networks in an effort to gain a better understanding of fundamental controls on volcano seismic sources and ocean noise source generation, respectively. Goals include hazard mitigation on volcanoes and the application of seismology to determine ocean wave characteristics. The group works in multiple collaborative international projects, primarily with European partners funded through the European Commission. It also has strong industrial linkages, particularly on problems related to sub-surface seismic imagery.


Prof. Chris Bean discusses the FutureVolc project and his teams trip to Iceland to set up clusters of sensors to transmit data back to UCD:

The Marine & Petroleum Geology Research Group is involved in a range of research projects focussed on understanding of slope and deep water sea-bed processes and in providing a geological framework for basin development, petroleum exploration and reservoir analysis in the Irish offshore. Interlinked research strands include:

  •     Crustal controls on passive margin sedimentary basins
  •     Basin and reservoir architecture and tectono-stratigraphic analysis of depositional systems
  •     The spectrum of gravity flow processes through slides, debris flows, transitional flows and turbidity currents
  •     Neogene to Recent depositional systems in deep-water basins west of Ireland

A significant tranche of current research deals with gravity flow processes, focussing on the interaction between turbidity currents and topography. The trapping of turbidity currents in slope mini-basins and tectonically-controlled depocentres is also a particular focus of the Group, drawing on field studies of Neogene structurally-controlled basins in SE Spain.  The Group is also concerned with the characterisation of modern slopes west of Ireland where the focus has been on the history of slope development, and the location, style and timing of slope failures.  An important strand of research relates to the activity of bottom currents sweeping slopes flanking the underfilled basins on the Irish Atlantic margins.  On-going projects are focussing on the tectono-stratigraphic evolution and provenance of both Triassic and Jurassic-Cretaceous reservoir intervals west of Ireland.

The group is currently staffed by two academic staff, one postdoctoral researcher and seven PhD students. Funding comes from a range of sources including industry, the EU and state funding agencies. 

The Palaeobiology Research Group has two major themes:

  • the palaeobiology and taphonomy of exceptional faunas
  • the evolutionary palaeoecology of early Phanerozoic 'deeper-marine' environments

Most fossils represent the disarticulated, fragmented, remains of biomineralized tissues – put colloquially – ‘shells, bones and teeth’. However, today, and in the geological past, the majority of organisms are composed exclusively of labile (i.e. decay-prone) tissues. This discrepancy is a ‘taphonomic filter’: the extent to which any fossil assemblage reflects the diversity of the original community depends on the fidelity of preservation. Exceptional faunas are those in which decay prone tissues and organisms are preserved. Research includes the systematic description of exceptionally preserved fossil taxa, but the primary focus is on elucidating the processes responsible for their preservation. This involves experimental simulation of decay processes, plus study of the sedimentological context and post-burial diagenetic histories of the fossils using field data and museum collections.

Trace fossils are produced by organisms reworking sediment. Changes over time in the complexity of communities can be identified using parameters such as the nature, depth and intensity of bioturbation; trace fossil distribution data can be combined with interpretation of the sedimentary environment to reconstruct the lateral and vertical partitioning of infauna into specific environmental niches. The group’s research is focussed on understanding palaeobiological events during critical intervals of Earth’s history; currently most attention is direction towards the evolution and diversification of infaunal metazoans during the Early Phanerozoic.

The Palaeobiology Research group also focuses on Irish Carboniferous sedimentary basins and is involved with several projects including studies of the sedimentology, palaeontology and biostratigraphy of Carboniferous rocks in Ireland (Dublin Basin, Irish Midlands and Northern Ireland), SW Spain (Sierra Morena) and Spitzbergen and the petrology, geochemistry and mechanisms of emplacement  of volcanic rocks in the basins; structural controls of basin development and evolution.

Palaeoclimatology research is undertaken using a multi-disciplinary approach encompassing speleology, geochemistry, climate dynamics, geomicrobiology and carbon cycling systematics. A principal research area of the Palaeoclimate Research Group is the reconstruction of past climates using geochemical proxies contained in speleothems.